How Automated will our Future be?

automated

Another winter weekend and another Friday night drive up to our family country home for a weekend of skiing. We have such interesting conversations during the two-hour trip. I think I may have to make the conversations of our Friday night drive a weekly blog feature. The topics of conversation are just so interesting. One of the topics we covered during this week’s drive: how automated will our future be, and with that, what jobs will disappear?

It was a toss-up for me about which topic was most interesting during our car ride, an automated future or the history of small pox (David and Matthew like to discuss war, but they also enjoy talking about disease and death). In the end, our sometimes bizarre though, for the most part, fascinating conversation about an automated future, sticks with me most.

Over the past 250 years the world has seen tremendous change. The Industrial Revolution, which altered work from hand production to machines and industry, marks a major turning point in history, and our transition from manual to automated seems to accelerate by the day.

What fascinated my son throughout our conversation were the careers, jobs and industries that exist today, in 2018, that may disappear in the future because of automation. It was interesting to hear his perspective, at age ten, about how he sees the future and the career path he may take – based on jobs that may or may not exist.

For example, he questioned the need for doctors in the future. That may seem shocking to you, but his reasoning was logical, in part. I will admit that he used Star Wars as his prime example of a future with no doctors or no need for them. Matthew has a creative mind and his thoughts are often inspired by what he sees and experiences. But he is also very intelligent and insightful. He is also highly influenced by the technology that surrounds him every day.

So, here is what Matthew explained to me about why he questions the need for trained doctors in the future. It was, as I expected, all about technology. He feels that all medical questions can be researched and answered by the internet – yes, Dr. Google. He thinks that robotics is a technology of the future, where robots and droids can treat people and even do surgery. For him, it’s all about an automated future.

As we rely more heavily on technology, no doubt there are thousands of jobs that disappear every year. Grocery stores are investing in the “self-check-out.” Online retailers like Amazon are testing drones to deliver packages to customers. Factories need fewer employees to build, create and package product. It is all in the name of automation. Fewer jobs and lower cost to deliver a service.

But I also feel that with an automated future, where we lose jobs in factories, medicine or stores, we also gain jobs in other sectors. Technology, as it evolves, still needs the human touch to create, develop and maintain it. The career of the IT professional, web developer or digital marketer didn’t even exist a few decades ago.

2018 may not be when we experience a new Industrial Revolution but rather a Technology Revolution. With an automated future, we have to evolve the way we think and develop our careers. The way my children see their future is so different than how I saw mine. I don’t think a droid doctor will be doing surgery on my anytime soon, but my son thinks it’s coming. He discounts a medical career path as he has determined that technology will kill that career.

For me, as I sit at a crossroads mid-career, in my early forties, I know that I must embrace the Technology Revolution and ride the road it will take me on. This blog is my first step as I bring together the craft I love – writing – with an automated future full of technology – the blog, internet and social media. It’s exciting and a little scary, but I’m ready.

And as for my son, Matthew, and his future career? If you ask him, he will tell you that he wants to pursue some kind of business, and he wants to make a lot of money. He won’t expand and share any details on that dream to me, but I guess I can’t complain. He has an idea of what the future may be, and I’m excited to watch it unfold.

Let’s Talk about Blue Monday

blue monday

I joined a few work colleagues for lunch yesterday and, among a number of conversations, we discussed the weather. It’s been really cold in Toronto, with a lot of grey skies and falling snow. I told them I’m excited that the forecast for Friday is a temperature above freezing and sunshine. We all agreed that we can handle the frigid weather, but the lack of sunshine has been hard.  It’s January, deep into the Canadian winter, which makes me think about the concept of Blue Monday.

Is it real or is this simply a phenomenon created by our capitalist society to get us to spend big money on sun vacations in the winter? As I read yesterday, the concept of Blue Monday was actually created back in 2005 in the United Kingdom to do just that – sell travel vacations. Many corporations have since latched on to the term purely for promotional purposes.

But society as a whole, or least societies that experience a harsh winter, have embraced this too. From what I have read, the third Monday in January is the day every year that it all comes together – the misery of cold and dark, post-holiday bills to pay and for some, a reminder of New Year’s resolutions.

There is no clear evidence backing up Blue Monday, in particular one day of the year that makes us all feel just blah all day. But I believe that January, in particular mid to late January, can be a challenge emotionally for many of us.

While I am not affected by big spending in December as I don’t celebrate Christmas, and I am definitely not one for New Year’s resolutions, I am affected by dreary dark and cold weather. And as I think about it, while I don’t make resolutions at the beginning of the year, my behaviour and actions are definitely influenced by the start of a new year.

By mid to late January, if things are not going my way, and if every day I wake up in darkness and trudge outside in my heavy coat and clunky boots, no doubt I am affected and feel blue. Lately my anger can be ignited more easily and I am definitely not handling stressful situations as well as I may in July.

I will admit that not all of this can be blamed on Blue Monday, as life has thrown me a few curveballs recently. But I am sure the time of year plays a role. I want to put aside the promotional aspect of Blue Monday and encourage everyone to talk about any funk you may be in. Mental health should no longer be something we sweep under the rug and ignore. It’s real, and I think many Canadians, deep in the winter, as we spend more time inside, behind closed doors, have a hard time coping.

We may not be able to do away with Blue Monday, but I think we can all find some coping mechanisms. For me, I try to relax and find a few moments every day that are just for me. I am not good at that. It can be a 30-minute TV show, a few pages of my book, a few seconds of utter silence, or on the weekend, a day at the ski hill.

And we can talk and write about Blue Monday and accept that many of our friends and family may be suffering from the blues or blahs right now. We can be there for each other and find ways to enjoy the dark and cold days of winter. Before you know it, spring will be here, with longer days, warm sunshine and budding trees.

Trying to Find Ways to Relax

relax

One of the reasons I created this blog, Kinetic Motions, is that my life is hectic and I needed a vehicle to make me slow down and think. I, like so many people I know, am very busy and carry many stresses around with me every day. Slowing down, relaxing and taking some time for myself is hard, and I will admit that I am not good at it. So today I am taking time to think and consider some better ways to relax.

I believe that relaxation is different for all of us. What one person finds relaxing may be another person’s idea of stress and misery. For example, some people choose extreme sports like jumping out of an airplane or rock climbing or swimming with sharks as a way to escape life and relax. For me any of those activities are a cause for only added stress and sheer terror. Then there are those that see relaxation as a week on a beach doing nothing or a day at the spa. These activities are not for me (no, I’m not a beach person and I have never stepped into a spa), but I see the appeal for others.

So how can I relax? How can I get away from the hustle and bustle of life, for a few minutes, hours or days?

After a busy day, if my house is kind of cleaned up and the kids are in bed (not necessarily asleep but in bed) I like to relax with a mindless TV show. House Hunters often does the trick, but a serial drama or comedy often gives me the escape I need. Or if I happen to find a good book to read, taking 30 minutes in my day (often when I am semi-conscious in bed) to read a few pages is most enjoyable.

Sometimes just a bit of silence helps me relax. Have you ever noticed just how loud life is? My house, my workplace, the streets of downtown Toronto, stores, noise is everywhere. Sometimes the quietest place for me is my car. My drive to or from work is when I can be by myself and alone with my thoughts. It may not qualify as silent (honking horns can ruin the moment), but it’s quieter than the rest of my day!

How about an evening out with friends? I don’t do this enough, and I want to give a shout-out to three of my oldest and dearest friends today – Elli, Dvora and Galit – who joined me last night for dinner so we could just catch up, relax and enjoy some sushi. A night out with the ladies – or for my male readers – with the guys – is so important and I highly recommend it. Leave the screaming kids, stressful job and messy house behind for a few hours and go out for the evening.

I wish I could say that exercise is relaxing for me, but I just can’t get into a routine. People tell me about spin class or yoga (I did do that for a while and need to try it again), running, jogging, a personal trainer and so much more. They tell me how it gets the adrenaline going and releases something within them that gives them strength and a sense of well-being. If someone wants to help me with that and lead me in the right direction, I’m all for it.

Skiing is one of the greatest ways I relax during the winter. As I have written previously, when I am at the top of the mountain, and I look out at Georgian Bay and crisp white snow, I can’t wait to fully disengage from the world for a few minutes and fly down the hill. What I just described may make another person shake with fear, and I respect that, but for me, skiing is a great release. I feel energized, healthy and confident. I am often freezing cold and can’t feel my hands and feet after a few runs, but it’s worth it.

And of course, there’s writing. My blog is giving me exactly what I needed. As I wrote many months ago in my “About Alicia” page, “Life is busy. I always seem to be in motion, trying to balance the many demands in my life. Here is the place that I can think, reflect, discuss, debate and just write.”

And of course, relax.

Is Everything in Life a Competition?

competition

Every weekend, during the winter at least, my gang of five drives up to our family country home in the Blue Mountains. It’s about a two-hour drive, which gives us ample time to engage in a wide variety of conversations. Some topics are mundane while others are too crazy to write about. The most interesting conversations happen between my husband, David, and our son, Matthew. The topic in the car for some of the drive Friday night: is everything in life a competition?

While David and Matthew did not dive too deep into this topic (they do get easily side-tracked and somehow often move over to discussions about war), it did get me thinking that competition really is a central piece of every part of our lives.

Think about how life begins. Millions of microscopic sperm swim around, moving as fast they can, competing to find and fertilize an egg. The one sperm that wins the competition and fertilizes the egg creates a new life. The millions of other sperm just disintegrate into nothing. In some ways, we begin life by winning our biggest competition – to create that life.

Once a baby is born, while he or she may not know it, the competition continues. If the baby has siblings, there is a competition for attention from the parents. The competitive nature of a human baby is quite limited, but what about animals in nature? Early on in life so many animals have to compete with the others to simply survive – to eat and sleep in a safe place.

As babies grow into children they learn the art of formal competition – how to win in an individual or team sport or beat an opponent at a game of cards or a board game. A driven student competes against his or her friends to achieve the highest grade on a test. There may be fierce competition to be accepted into the right high school and eventually the university of choice.

The older we get, the more competitions we must face. It may begin with a friendly wager between two friends about who can get the higher grade or be the first to snag a date to the prom, but as we grow up it gets more serious.

Who receives a scholarship or is accepted to one of the few spots available in an elite graduate school program? Does the girl pick you or the better-looking guy in the corner? Who will be the first person in your group of friends to get married?

When we enter the job market, either as a teenager looking for a part-time job or fresh out of high school, college or university seeking a full-time position, the real competition begins. We want to show off our best skills and be noticed. We need to convince a person or group of people to think, yes, she is the best choice. I want to hire her. The pool of applicants for one job can be enormous, and sometimes hundreds of people can be in competition for one position.

Once we have secured that great job, the competition does not end. We must compete to be noticed and work hard every day to move up in the world. And just when we think we have it all, it can come crumbling down. We may be forced to begin the competition again to find the next job. I know that I must never let my guard down and the next competition may be around the corner.

I believe that few things in life are just handed to us. It’s not just about hard work – it’s about the ability to compete and to try to be successful. How often do you hear about someone who “battled cancer” or “fought off an injury?” We compete with each other and sometimes even life itself.

And just because we don’t win every competition does not mean we are not successful. I understand that at the very beginning only one sperm can be successful to win the competition. But a baby will always get tons of attention from close family. 90% may not be the highest grade on the test but it’s still a good mark. We may not get an acceptance letter from our first choice for university but hard will work will bring us many other offers for an opportunity at an institution of higher education. It may take a while to find the perfect job, but with some patience and persistence we will get on the right career path. Competition is a part of life. And that’s okay.

UNLESS: The Message of the Lorax

Lorax

“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” The Lorax.

Last night with my mother I went to a Mirvish play

The story was good but the music, um, no way.

‘Twas the story of the Lorax, who speaks for the trees

who protects our environment – the flowers, birds and bees.

 

From a Dr. Seuss book to a movie and now musical show

The story’s a classic and one you should know.

It focuses on industry, consumption and waste

Of capitalism and greed it gives a bad taste.

 

As our society goes on BIGGERING and BIGGERING until

We just keep on growing and growing at will.

Our desire for things that we definitely don’t need

Like a new smartphone or fancy car or maybe a Thneed?

 

The songs were quite terrible and the dancing I’d score as fair

And the script swayed from the book here and there.

The musical version of the Lorax wasn’t the best

But it did get me thinking of the time I should invest.

 

Success is not about money or celebrity or fame

Doing good and making the world better is the name of the game.

The direction I must take with my life is much clearer

To help change the world and with my blog I get nearer.

 

To finding the path I wish to go now

Thank you the Lorax, I will keep my vow.

How Many Steps does it take to get on the Ski Hill?

ski hill

Do you participate in winter sports? Skating? Hockey? Tobogganing? How about Bobsledding? Have you ever thought about all the steps you take from the moment you leave your house until you actually participate in your beloved winter sport? I thought about this this past weekend, as I enjoyed my time at the ski hill

I probably should not have gone down this path, like I did at the grocery store a few months ago (how many times do you move your milk before you actually drink it?). Honestly, it made me depressed. I could not believe how much preparation I do each time and how much stress I go through to participate in this winter sport.

Do I spend more time preparing myself for the ski hill than I do skiing? Very often the answer is, yes.

Now that I have you thinking about this too, let’s go through the process. Or I will take you through the process of getting me and my extended family to the ski hill on a winter weekend. Note that we are often up to sixteen people in our house. That alone often adds steps, complexity, craziness and even rage.

My typical ski day begins at 7:00 am, when my alarm goes off. I press snooze a couple of times and throw myself out of bed by about 7:15. To get a few minutes back of my day, I lay out our special ski clothes the night before. I grab my pile (my bed is usually filled with at least two sleeping children so I can’t get ready in my own bedroom) and head to the nearest empty bathroom.

By 7:30 I am dressed, my hair is kind of brushed and I am basically awake. My kids are still asleep. My sister, brother and their kids are usually awake at this point, and the collection of random children are loitering around the house. I head to the kitchen to prepare the ski hill lunch. Different people contribute to this process, and the kitchen is usually a scene of mayhem, as we attempt to also eat breakfast.

By 7:45 am I am back in my bedroom coaxing my children to wake up. I throw their clothes on their heads and  also throw some kind of bribe at them to get them moving. It works.

8:00 am and the house is awake and alive, with a mix of screaming adults, wild children and barking dogs. Some have eaten, the lunch coolers are packed and it’s time to put on the many layers necessary to stay warm for hours outside during a Canadian winter.

Which brings me to those layers. The first one is the stylish and tight-fitting long underwear. Next is the heavy sweater – it can be a fleece or wool-blend. On top of that I wear my packable down jacket, and my top layer is a heavy (but stylish of course) ski jacket. Try getting all those layers on a pile of rowdy children.

When the clock ticks to 8:15 am panic ensues as no one is ready. Children’s ski and snowboard boots must go on the feet, balaclavas on the heads and coats zipped closed. We toss the lunch cooler bags in the car, strap in the kids and we are off – hopefully by 8:30 am.

I have been awake for 90 minutes already and I’m just leaving the house.

It’s a 20-minute drive to the ski hill. We park and gently nudge the children along the snowy path from the parking lot to the locker to the meeting area for their group lessons. I wave good bye to my kids at 9:00 am. Now it’s time for me to get ready, or rather, to continue to get ready.

Back to the ski hill locker room. By 9:10 am it is, for the most part, child free and a little quieter and calmer. The adults wipe their brows and recover from the insanity of getting the children on the ski hill.

ski hill
Our loaded family ski locker

And now, for the ski boots. They are big, heavy and clunky. I walk like some mechanical robot when I wear them. But it’s the only way to protect my feet and ankles and to connect to the skis. Next comes my balaclava, helmet, goggles and two layers of gloves. I pull out my skis and poles and close the locker.

ski hill
How long does it take the adults to put on their boots?

It’s time to walk over to the actual ski hill.

ski hill
Starting the walk to the chairlift
ski hill
Skis are on and I’m ready to go

If I’m efficient, I can be on my way to participate in my beloved sport by 9:30 am – yes, 2 ½ hours after I wake up. We strap on our skis, line up at the chairlift, sit down and up we go. If it’s cold and windy like it was last weekend, I cover my face with my gloves and pull up my balaclava to protect every bit of bare skin. We “unload” (yes that’s what the sign actually says) off the chair and get ready to ski down the hill.

It can take me two or three hours, with many steps, to arrive at the top of the ski hill. Is it worth it?

Oh yes, it is.

I look out at the view in front of me – the glistening white snow and the frigid and almost frozen water of Georgian Bay – and I start to fly. All the stresses of the week and steps to get to the top of the ski hill disappear. I may only get in a few runs before I pick up my kids for lunch, but I’ll take it. Oh yes, it’s worth it.

My Toddler is a Menace

toddler

She’s everywhere. And I mean everywhere. If Nessa is awake, then she is on the move. I know that toddlers are active and curious little beings. I’ve had three of them. But wow, this toddler takes the cake.

toddler
Enjoying her mess.

Is it a third child thing to be a toddler menace? I am a middle child, so it’s easy for me to say this. My other two children were definitely active and curious toddlers. I remember when Matthew was an infant we bought all kinds of baby proofing equipment for the kitchen, bathrooms and electrical outlets. We set up a baby gate at the top of the stairs and were ready for anything.

We never used any of it.

He wasn’t interested. If I gave Matthew a couple of pots and a spoon in the kitchen, that kept him busy. If I put him in his bedroom to play, he sat with his toys and books and basically just stayed there.

Julia kicked it up a notch and was a more calculating, curious toddler. She was not a menace, but she quietly hid precious items in unfindable places and giggled in a sly way when she knew she did something wrong. She still does.

But Nessa is a menace to society. And she doesn’t even walk yet! My adorable and quite loveable third child travels around on her bum. I call it “bum walking.” It takes quite a bit of talent and strong abs to move around at the speed that she does. She was quite the lump of a baby for the longest time and wasn’t interested in moving at all. When she started to scoot around, slowly, on her bum, we were amused.

toddler
Nothing stays on her feet for long.
toddler
Interesting hat.
toddler
Taking her loot for a ride in the doll stroller

Over the following months, Nessa perfected the art of bum walking, and now that she has combined that with standing and climbing, she can move around quickly and grab anything she wants.

Nessa can open cabinet doors, drawers and even zippers. If it’s within her reach or close to it, she eyes it and goes after it. She has some favourites:

  • Kitchen pantry: removes a mix of spice jars and chocolate chips one by one and scatters them on the floor
  • Kitchen utensils drawer: deftly opens it and takes out tongs, serving spoons and whisks. She particularly likes to open the oven warming drawer as well and drop her treasure in.
  • The water cooler: she figured out that if she pushes on the blue or white buttons that water comes out. Fun!
  • Diaper bag: whether it’s open or not, if she can reach it, she opens it and empties it.
  • Bookshelf: Nessa loves her books and it’s adorable to watch her “read.” It’s not as much fun when she feels the need to read every book on her shelf out all at the same time.
  • Cables: in particular iPhone cables. Nessa likes to chew on them. Yes, I know, that’s a problem.
  • Anything that belongs to her brother and sister
toddler
Elastic bands block her way
toddler
If the doors are open, she dives in.
toddler
Creating one of her early masterpieces – after she dumped the crayons and a stack of paper on the floor.
toddler
That’s how Nessa likes to sit on her little chair

The list goes on and on. It’s hard to get angry with her because she is just so cute. Oh, and she often sings to herself as she scoots around the house, looking for the next place to cause trouble. Could you get angry with this face?

Maybe Nessa is just really intelligent, way beyond her years (or months, she is only a one-year-old). Could it be that her tremendous curiosity is a sign of her need to explore the world and soak it all up before she turns two?

toddler

Or is she just a menace? Cute and cuddly, but one little troublemaker.

I would love to hear stories about other toddler menaces. Were you one? Do you or did you have a child in this category? Am I right about the third child? Leave me a comment here, post your thoughts on Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.

toddler
The only time she stops moving.

Countdown to the Winter Olympics

Winter Olympics

It is 2018, so that means the world will come together this year for the Winter Olympics. Or at least most of the world. I am not ashamed to say that I love the Olympics, in particular the sports celebrated in the winter. Every four years I become an addict. I just can’t stop following it all during those two special weeks.

In the age of technology, I can follow every sport at every moment of the day. I switch between my television, computer and my phone. I download the latest app to keep me up-to-date at all times so that I don’t miss anything. With the Winter Olympics this year in PyeongChang, which is fourteen hours ahead from where I live, I know it won’t be easy.

If the Winter Olympics happen from February 9-25 this year, should I become nocturnal during those two weeks? For example, the opening ceremonies start at 8:00 pm local time on Friday, February 9. That’s 6:00 am in Toronto. I can start my day early for that. No problem.

But once the opening ceremonies are over I will need to go back to sleep for a while and be ready to watch the first snowboarding competition that starts (my time) at 8:00 pm on Friday night. So what if it’s only the Men’s Slopeside Qualification? I need to watch it.

The first Winter Olympics I remember well was back in 1988 when the games were hosted by the great city of Calgary, here in Canada. There were so many great moments that I recall from the Calgary games, but my favourite one was when I watched Elizabeth Manley perform the skate of her life in the women’s free skate. When she raised her arms high at the end of that long skate she knew the night was hers.

 

For junkies like me, it was great in 1994 that I only had to wait two years between Winter Olympics. With the six-hour time difference I watched as much as I could of the games in 1992 in the Savoy region of France, then a short time later enjoyed them again in Lillehammer, Norway.

One of my favourite Winter Olympics moments actually came on a day in the summer, when no games were happening. It was July 2, 2003. I worked at the Assignment Desk at Rogers Sportsnet at the time and was handed the job to bring in the live feed and manage the content for the announcement of the host city of the 2010 games. Vancouver was in the running, so as a national sports network we had to be ready.

The announcement happened at a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Prague, Czech Republic. It came at 8:41 am local time. That means it was 2:41 am in Toronto.. I stayed at work all night. We had to be ready to watch the announcement live and be ready to bring in any relevant material.

We were a small group who worked all night, and we felt elated when Vancouver was announced as the winner. The Winter Olympics were returning to Canada. It was an incredible moment.

 

When the Winter Olympics finally arrived in Vancouver almost seven years later it was the culmination of years of excitement for me. I watched round-the-clock coverage. The three-hour time difference didn’t bother me. Staying up a bit later was no big deal for me. I was six months pregnant at the time and wasn’t really sleeping anyway.

The Winter Olympics in PyeongChang begin in just 37 days. I am very excited. I will watch as much of the competition that I can on TV, read about it on the internet and follow on social media. And for those of you who live in Toronto, you may not see me for a couple of weeks in February. Unless of course you are an Olympics addict too and will also become nocturnal. In that case, come watch with me.

A Ruckus New Year’s Eve at the Richler Country House

new year's eve

I started a tradition 14 years ago at our family country house. Back in 2003, David and I traveled to Italy and ate some of the best food we had ever tasted. I wanted to recreate my favourite meal from that trip on New Year’s Eve for my family. And so began a long-time tradition of me preparing an elaborate feast every December 31st.

There was only one small child in the family back in 2003, surrounded by a bunch of adults. I had also just babysat said child (my nephew) a few days before when he was sick and unable to go to daycare. By the time December 31st came around he was better and I was sick with a 103-degree fever.

But that didn’t stop me.

I prepared my Italian feast for my family, with creamy pesto pasta as the centrepiece. I slogged through it and took naps throughout the day.

It was worth it.

Since that day, as our extended family has grown from one child to eight, I have cooked a themed and extravagant New Year’s Eve meal at our country house every year (except December 31, 2016, when we were in Auckland, NZ). I have made some crazy meals, like “Pie in the Sky,” “Cheesy New Year’s Eve” and “Everything layered.” I went international a couple of other times, like a tour through China or Japan. A couple of years ago I chose some of my favourite dishes from the TV show Diners Drive-ins and Dives. That was a crazy night.

new year's eve
I see Mexican and Middle Eastern here. I don’t remember the theme from December 31, 2006
new year's eve
Enjoying some crepes for dessert on December 31, 2006
new year's eve
Seven layer dip was one of the many items I made on “Everything Layered” on December 31, 2007
new year's eve
It was a trip around Asia on December 31, 2010
Have you ever tried Tempopo? We did, on December 31, 2011
new year's eve
having some fun preparing pie in the sky on December 31, 2012
new year's eve
some of the pies from “pie in the sky”

For December 31, 2017, I had to change it up just a bit again and went with another kind of crazy theme: flashback to Bar Mitzvahs in the 1980’s. I had a grand plan when I first conceived the idea and scaled it back as New Year’s Eve neared. Would people still own Bar Mitzvah outfits from the 1980’s? If they did, would they fit? Could my father compile a playlist of some of our favourite 1980’s music? Do I remember the kind of food we ate at Bar Mitzvahs back then?

My brother took care of the rockin’ playlist. My mother went deep into her closet and found some unique dresses (I fit into them but I will admit that the waist was too tight for comfort). And the food. Well that was easy.

Our extended family at our newly renovated country house (again, more on that in a future post) is a mighty sixteen people. Oh ya. My parents have three children. We are all married. My brother has two kids, my sister has three kids. And I of course have three. Oh, my sister’s dog always joins us, along with my sister’s in-laws’ dog too, who has moved in for the winter.

new year's eve
The five of us have been celebrating New Year’s Eve near this kitchen most of the last 27 years.

Do you remember what you ate thirty years ago? I do! As a child who went to many Bar Mitzvahs, I clearly recall eating a lot of chicken fingers and french fries. So that’s what I had for the kids (thanks to my sister, Darcie, who cooked the chicken).

New year's eve
Julia tested the kids’ meal for me

And what was always on the centre of every kids’ table at these events? Candy, of course.

New year's eve
Candy, anyone?

Every Bar Mitzvah (okay, weddings too), starts with a wide variety of appetizers. I ordered a huge tray of vegetarian sushi (my New Year’s resolution for 2018 is to learn how to make sushi) and also heated up egg rolls and knishes. In years past, before three children, I would have made those myself, but that was not to be this year. The group attacked the appetizers. And like any good Bar Mitzvah, the keeners hung out by the kitchen to be first to the hot hors d’oeuvres.

new year's eve
The hors d’oeuvres keeners

I also remembered seeing overcooked beef served to the adults. So, I pulled out my always handy Instant Pot and cooked the most luscious pot roast. I served it with polenta fries and a medley of roast vegetables.

new year's eve
My mother was definitely keener and first to the table for dinner
new year's eve
The main course.
new Year's eve
My attempt at plating

The evening was topped off with a small sweet table (thanks to my mother), which included her famous “slutty brownies” (yes that’s what they are called), regular brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Oh, and I cut up a pineapple so that we could feel a bit healthy.

new year's eve
You can’t go wrong with brownies, cookies and pineapple

We snacked on dessert as we all watched our family’s favourite cult movie, The Money Pit. My sister convinced (blackmailed?) most of the crowd to put on these strange flannel one-sies, and we got comfortable on the couch and across the floor.

A few of us made our usual predictions for the coming year (sorry Toronto fans, I don’t see any of our favourite teams winning it all in 2018, well, maybe Toronto FC). Most of the crowd even stayed awake to watch the ball drop in New York City.

I love the Richler Family New Year’s Eve ruckus at our country home. As our family grows and we become louder and rowdier, I enjoy it even more. I don’t need a $200 dinner at a fancy restaurant or a big party at someone’s home. My crazy family, in the comfort of our cozy country house, with great food, is perfect for me.

Happy New Year. My best wishes to you for 2018.

Escape by Shower

shower

Do you take a shower at night or in the morning? Early evening? After work? Or do you do shift work and grab one in the middle of the day? Are you quick or take a while? As I have figured out through some deep thinking lately, a shower is not a simple process.

For some people, it’s simply about getting clean. You turn on the water, get in, maybe wash your hair and body, and you’re out. The showering process can be all of 2 or 3 minutes long. I remember, years ago, when I was in university, that I met some military guys who had a competition: who could take the fastest shower. They were in and out in less than a minute, all clean and fresh.

I just don’t see the point of that. You see, for me, a shower is not just about getting clean. It’s also an escape. And I will clarify. I love, after a long and busy day, to close the door in the bathroom, turn on the hot water and gently and slowly get in the shower. As I put my head under the steaming hot water and close my eyes, all the craziness and stress of the day are washed away. I immediately relax.

I don’t want to rush through a shower. Of course, I wash my hair and body, but I also take this time to release the tension of the day. It’s incredible. It is my escape. While I don’t rush through a shower, I definitely take my time.

I like to shower once my kids have gone to sleep (which can be quite late sometimes) and the house is quiet. The night time shower is what I prefer over one in the morning. I think the biggest problem with a morning shower is that I can’t take my time and relax. I have too many thoughts in my head about all the things I need to do before I leave my house for the day as well all the tasks ahead for the day. There is no relaxing, no escape. And often, when I do shower in the morning, there is a husband or child banging on the door.

Then there is the bath. I have always been intrigued how some of us are “bath people” while others are “shower people” I remember one House Hunters show in particular where the couple told their realtor that they didn’t want to look at any properties with a bathtub. The husband said he didn’t understand how anyone wanted to lie in their own filth. As he put it, your body is basically dirty before you get in the tub, so you are lying in dirty water.

He has a point, but I will admit that I am both a shower person and a bath person. I don’t go the route of the bath every day, but if I have a sore back or sore legs or am suffering from a nasty cold, a bath gives me great relief. But like a shower, the escape only happens for me at night. That’s when I can truly relax.

What are your shower habits? Or do you prefer baths? Morning? Night? Other? I would love to hear more. Leave me a comment here, or post something on Facebook, or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.